The continued increase in the use of ransomware by cyber criminals has had a costly impact on businesses and organizations around the world. Ransomware groups continue to initiate attacks on businesses and organizations, and states have become increasingly concerned over the potential impact it may have on their critical infrastructure and economies. The United States’ recent acknowledgement of cyber operations against ransomware groups highlights the seriousness of the issue and exposes areas of international law that are complicated when applied to cyber operations against these groups. This Comment explores the relevant international law as it applies to the United States and the cyber operation against the criminal ransomware group REvil in the summer of 2021.
The relevant international law as it relates to a cyber operation from the United States is the U.N. Charter’s Article 2(4) prohibition on the use of force, the prohibition on intervention under customary international law, and the role of sovereignty. In application to the U.S. operation against REvil, the operation is permissible under international law. It is recommended that the U.S. bolster its legal position by clarifying, promoting, and consolidating its position on the role of sovereignty in international law and its application to cyberspace operations.